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A look at investigations into Flint’s lead-tainted water


Flint resident Sharon Moore, left, leaps up to shout out her support as she listens to pastor David Bullock during a town hall meeting packed with more than 500 people to discuss the ongoing Flint water crisis on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016 at First Trinity Missionary Baptist Church in Flint, Mich. Flint switched its water source from Detroit’s water system to the Flint River in 2014 to save money while under state financial management. The river water was not treated properly and lead from pipes leached into Flint homes. (Jake May/The Flint Journal - via AP) (Associated Press)

February 2 at 1:36 PM

The FBI is working with a multi-agency team to investigate the lead contamination of Flint’s drinking water, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Detroit said Tuesday.

Flint switched its water source from Detroit’s water system to the Flint River in 2014 to save money while under state financial management. The river water was not treated properly and lead from pipes leached into Flint homes.

Flint’s public works director, Michigan’s top environmental regulator, a state spokesman and a high-ranking federal regulator have resigned in connection with the crisis. Two other state environmental officials have been suspended pending an investigation.

A look at various investigations taking place:



The EPA announced in November an audit of how Michigan enforces drinking water rules, and plans to identify ways to possibly strengthen state oversight. The Justice Department has confirmed it is helping the EPA, where one high-ranking official has resigned, and said Tuesday that the FBI is working with a multi-agency team investigating the lead contamination. Officials have not said whether criminal or civil charges might follow.



The House Oversight Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Wednesday on Capitol Hill looking into Flint’s water crisis and the EPA’s role in administering the Safe Drinking Water Act there.

Witnesses invited include Joel Beauvais, an acting EPA deputy assistant administrator; Miguel Del Toral, a researcher in the EPA’s Region 5 Water Division; Keith Creagh, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality interim director; Marc Edwards, professor of environmental and water resources engineering at Virginia Tech; and Darnell Earley, former state-appointed emergency manager of Flint, who has chosen not to testify.



Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has appointed a special counsel to aid his office’s investigation into whether laws were broken regarding Flint’s lead-tainted water. It is unclear if the probe could result in criminal or civil charges.

Schuette announced the inquiry more than four months after Virginia Tech’s Edwards said the Flint River was leaching lead from pipes into people’s homes because the water was not treated for corrosion, after declining to investigate earlier. He said new information that came to light around New Year’s prompted him to open a probe.

Special counsel Todd Flood has mostly declined to detail which criminal or civil laws could be reviewed for potential violations, though he has cited prohibitions against misconduct by public officials.



An independent panel appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder determined that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality was primarily responsible for the water contamination because it failed to require Flint to treat its water for corrosion after switching from Detroit’s system to the Flint River. A final report is expected early this year. The task force has recommended that the state ask the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help assess an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Genesee County that some experts suspect is linked to the water. At least 87 cases, including nine deaths, were confirmed during a 17-month period.



The auditor said in a preliminary report that the DEQ should have required Flint to treat its water to keep lead from leaching from service lines into people’s homes but did not purposely mislead federal officials about the lack of corrosion control. State officials interpreted federal rules to mean Flint could make the transition and then test the new water for lead over two six-month intervals to determine potential corrosion treatment. In February 2015, a DEQ water supervisor told the EPA that Flint had a corrosion control program in place. But in April, an EPA official confirmed through another DEQ official that the city was not practicing corrosion treatment, according to emails. The EPA apparently interpreted the word “program” to mean treatment, while the DEQ meant it as testing to determine if corrosion controls would be needed in the future, according to the auditor.



The EPA’s internal watchdog has announced plans to examine the circumstances of, and the agency’s response to, the water contamination. The office plans to visit Michigan and the EPA’s regional headquarters in Chicago.



The commission will hold hearings to explore whether the civil rights of Flint residents were violated during the switch to the Flint River and subsequent contamination. A majority of Flint residents are black. The first hearing could be held this month.



A lawsuit filed last week asks a federal judge to force Michigan and the city of Flint to replace all lead pipes in Flint’s water system to ensure residents have a safe drinking supply. The complaint says service lines from water mains into homes should be replaced at no cost to customers. The suit seeks an order requiring city and state officials to remedy alleged violations of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. It is at least the fourth lawsuit filed over Flint’s lead-tainted water. The others seek financial damages on behalf of residents.


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Author: Red

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